Monday, 31 December 2012

Entry #19

It has been quite an interesting experience here in Africa during the Christmas season. While 60+% of the
population is Christian, there are limited signs or indications that it is Christmas. There are no Christmas lights and
only Christmas trees we see are a few in one of the stores we visit each week. The children are out of school for
approximately three weeks, and many roadside food stands and other businesses close for about a week. You hear
very little Christmas music and gift giving is very limited. I am sure that one of the reasons for the lack of Christmas
activity is the poverty and lack of resources of most individuals and families. Since they have never experienced
the wonderful life we are used to in America, they are relatively content – since they have never known anything

On Saturday, 22 December 2012, the mission brought all of the missionaries into Kumasi to one of the church
buildings in the city (Bantama Chapel) and put together a Christmas dinner for them along with a program and a
movie. (See pictures below) It was a fairly major undertaking, due to the circumstance that we have to operate
under here. Just getting 100 plus missionaries into the city from the remote areas of Ghana is no small task. It takes
3 or 4 hours by Tro Tro (small busses) for many to get here. We had two 50 gallon barrels made into a homemade
barbeque grills and grilled 100+ pieces of chicken and made potato salad, strawberry banana Jello with fruit
cocktail (yes, we found 16 boxes and 5 cans and bought them out), bean salad and rounded the meal off with some
homemade pastries, fan-ice (ice cream of sorts) and some carbonated drinks. The meal was generally appreciated
by most, but some of the Africans were not over thrilled with the beans, potato salad and Jello – American style
food. The program included Dad (Rodney) sharing a Christmas Message, followed by remarks from the Mission
President. A movie “Silent Night” was then shown and followed by a small gift packet made possible by some very
generous parents and young women groups from the United States. It still amazes us that many of the African
missionaries have little or no family support and accordingly never receive a package or even letters from home, so
the small gift packages were more than a welcome gift.

The holiday traffic congestion is a nightmare here. Traffic is always a challenge, but getting to and from places
during this time is unbelievable. Driving back from the Christmas Program it took almost an hour to go one mile.

On Christmas day we had the awesome privilege of having 10 of the missionaries (see pictures below) over for a
pancake breakfast (just by luck we found a box of Aunt Jemima pancake mix and grabbed it – made pancakes real
fast) and a video (one of the Work and The Glory videos). When it was time to leave we sent them off with bags
full of chocolate chip and snicker doodle cookies. (Cooking with a gas canister is not the easiest so MJ had to watch
the cookies very carefully to be sure that they didn’t burn – most of them were okay.)The missionaries were so
appreciative to have a bit of home life on Christmas. In the late afternoon and early evening we then traveled to the
mission home and had the great opportunity of Skyping with the three Palmer families living in Utah – a nice follow
up to the Skyping session we had with all the families in Arizona on Thanksgiving Day. It is nice to have the feeling
of being with family, even when you are 7,000 miles away. It was great to realize that both family groups, those in
Utah and those in Arizona, were having their Christmas Eve Programs at the same time at night.

We also had a pleasant surprise on Christmas Eve when we heard the rattling at our metal gate at the door of our
place. A grandmother with three little girls (a church member who lives near us) came to sing a Christmas carol to
us. The three little girls are the ones that have basically adopted us as their grandparents and always sit by us at
church and also come to visit us occasionally at our apartment. Anyway they came in and sang a carol – not great
musicians with their limited English, but their heartfelt gift was deeply appreciated. They were in some Santa Claus
type costumes (the most we have seen here in Ghana) and shared their love. (See picture below).


Mom and Dad

In the midst of our Christmas festivities we had 10 new missionaries arrive – all but one was from an African nation.  Below is a picture of these recent arrivals with their trainer companion.

The Christmas Feast for the missionaries – Sister Holmes (mission president’s wife), Veronica (mission cook a returned missionary), Rodney, Bro. & Sis. Thayne, another senior couple in the mission and me behind the camera.
The missionaries are enjoying the food and associations. On the left is Kwaku Cooper, who helps with the facility and apartment management in the mission.

Our great missionaries! Unfortunately, some had to leave before we got the picture because of their travel distance.

These four sisters rode with us to the Christmas Program and meal on Saturday. They live just around the corner from us. Two are trainers for the other two. They are from Nigeria, Sierra Leone, South Africa and Nigeria, in order. They came over a week before and watched the First Presidency’s Christmas Devotional on our lap top.

This is what our Christmas looked like. We found the tree in the apartment where a senior couple lived but left 2 months ago, brought it over and hung candy canes on it, decorated around it with presents, cards and a homemade silver star at its top. Thank you all for remembering us at this time. It made our time here better, even though we were without our family and friends. We love you all.

These are our Christmas Eve visitors who live around the corner from us: Elizabeth and grandmother, Sis. Kontho, in the back and Joyce, Rodney and Lynette (and Mary Joyce behind the camera). They sang a few carols and we sent them home with some candy which they loved – they weren’t getting much so they were happy.

We had 10 over on Christmas morning. Where was the one lost missionary? Don’t know - - -

Eating pancakes with syrup with orange juice to drink - - -
Elders from Nigeria, Utah and Idaho.

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